By 1970’s Gooner
The African Nations Cup is taking place in tropical Ghana but of course the impact of the tournament will be felt mostly in London where Chelsea and Arsenal more than Manchester United will be affected.
Chelsea, already nursing a long injury list, will have to do without Ivorian duo Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba and Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, while the loss of midfielder Michael Essien to Ghana will hit them hardest.
Manchester United have no player significant enough going to the tournament (apart from new signing Manucho) but Arsenal will be missing one of their most influential defenders, Kolo Toure, as well as the resurgent Eboue. Song, a squad member, has also been called up by Cameroon.
The tournament will take place between 20th January and the 10th of February when the final will be held. Players however are likely to be called up to join up with their respective squads early as the 7th January.
Toure and the other Arsenal players will potentially miss Arsenal’s League fixtures against Birmingham (H), Fulham (A), Newcastle (H), Manchester City (A) and Blackburn (H) as well the two semi finals of the Carling Cup against Spurs and the next round of the FA Cup (assuming Burnley are defeated).
I have included the Blackburn fixture as it is played the day after the final of the ANC tournament. If the Ivory Coast participate in this game it will be difficult for Toure and Eboue to travel back from Ghana in time and be fit enough to play a Premier League game only a day later.
Arsene Wenger has already stated that he will not buy in the transfer window.
"We will not go into the transfer market even though we are losing two centre backs," he said to the BBC. He admitted there was one circumstance in which he might consider a purchase. "If I was offered the bargain of the century"!
So the big queston is who will be selected to partner Gallas in the heart of Arsenal’s defence. The choice seems to be between the recalled Djourou and Senderos.
There are others available of course who have played there before which I have included in the poll we have set up.
Gilberto Silva was drafted in against Spurs at White Hart Lane when Gallas was injured and Justin Hoyte has played there a few seasons back at Carrow road against Norwich. Bakary Sagna can also play there.
But I doubt if Arsene Wenger will bypass Djourou and Senderos for anyone else unless injuries force his hand. But who will he choose?
Central defenders in the modern game have to be almost the complete footballers.
They have to be tall with good heading and tackling ability, have pace, be able to read the game so as to take the appropriate defensive positions and also distribute the ball accurately and creatively.
They also try and score goals usually from corners and free kicks. Not a lot is it?
The ideal pairing for the centre back positions is to have two defenders that will be able to compliment each other. At least one if not both will have to be ultra quick so that they can match the opposing forward or the midfielder making runs behind the defence.
Philip Senderos fulfills most of the above but he is short on two important aspects: pace and positional awareness.
The second will improve with time and games but the first is more difficult to get to grips with.
However it will certainly be mitigated against in the future as Senderos’s ability to read the game and take up correct positions will mean that pace will not often be needed to get him out of difficult situations.
A bit like Clichy using his pace to get back at opponents that have managed to steal ahead of him (now that his positioning has improved you don’t see him running frantically backwards to cover up his mistakes).
On the other hand Djourou’s heading ability has room for improvement and he too tends to lack positional awareness.
He does however have more pace than Senderos. He also has something else that Senderos is missing lately: match fitness.
Philip Senderos, Johan Djourou
Born: 14.02.1985 (23), 18.01.1987 (21)
Nationality: Swiss, Swiss
Height: 191 cm, 191 cm
Weight: 84 kg, 83kg
Minutes played : 384, 1065
Tackles : 4, 33
Tackles won : 3, 25
% tackles won : 75%, 76%
Total passes : 132, 256
Accurate Passes : 117, 203
% accurate passes : 89% , 79%
Source: Daily Telegraph
How teams are affected by the Africa nations Cup
Only four Premier League clubs (Aston Villa, Derby County, Fulham and Manchester City) are not affected by the tournament.
Arsenal - Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast), Alexandre Song (Cameroon)
Birmingham - Richard Kingson (Ghana), Mehdi Nafti and Radhi Jaidi (Tunisia)
Blackburn - Aaron Mokoena (South Africa)
Bolton - El-Hadji Diouf (Senegal), Abdoulaye Meite (Ivory Coast)
Chelsea - John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), Didier Drogba and Saloman Kalou (Ivory Coast), Michael Essien (Ghana)
Everton - Joseph Yobo and Ayegbeni Yakubu (Nigeria), Steven Pienaar (South Africa)
Liverpool - Nabil El-Zhar (Morocco), Muhammed Sissoko (Mali)
Manchester United - Manucho (Angola)
Middlesbrough - Mohamed Shawky and Mido (Egypt)
Newcastle - Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Geremi (Cameroon), Abdoulaye Faye and Habib Beye (Senegal)
Portsmouth - Papa Bouba Diop (Senegal), Nwankwo Kanu and John Utaka (Nigeria), Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Lauren (Cameroon)
Reading - Andre Bikey (Cameroon), Emerse Fae (Ivory Coast), Ibrahima Sonko (Senegal)
Sunderland - Dickson Etuhu (Nigeria)
Tottenham - Hossam Ghaly (Egypt), Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast)
West Ham United - John Pantsil (Ghana), Henri Camara (Senegal)
Wigan - Salomon Olembe (Cameroon), Julius Aghahowa (Nigeria)